Thursday, July 21, 2016

What the Hell Does IT Do Anyway?

What the Hell Does IT Do Anyway?
By: Kristan Gainey, Chief of Staff for the CIO of Informatica

How many times have you heard that in a meeting or even said it yourself? In most cases it’s a fair question because a lot of what IT does goes unnoticed. I have found that while IT enables the business and contributes to its success, the outcomes often go unnoticed simply because IT and the business speak different languages.
Let’s take the word “bimodal” for example. Every time I hear it I think of a big, black bear on a bicycle. Usually, I’m in a IT strategy meeting, so it’s safe to assume that’s not what the speaker means.
According to Gartner, bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of IT delivery – one focused on stability and the other on agility. It’s a powerful word and accurately describes exactly what IT does every day. However, it means nothing to the business. It’s just not part of their language.
However, a language both IT and business speak is “data,” and – guess what – IT usually owns the data for the company! Data intelligence, metrics and making sense of data are at the very core of today’s digital transformations, and IT is in a unique position to use data to transcend language and demonstrate its value to its internal customers.
But first, IT needs to get smarter about what the business actually does and how IT contributes to its success. Here are a few steps IT can take to build a true partnership with the business:
·        Everybody in IT – not just the CIO – needs to gain a greater understanding of how the business defines success. Without understanding the business’ goals and aspirations, how can IT possibly measure its contribution?  
·        For every project, regardless of size, IT must ask: What business problem does this solve? The company makes tough resource decisions all the time, and if IT can’t tie a project back to a business problem or corporate goal, it will be difficult to prove its value.
·        After establishing the business problem but before the project ever starts, define the success metrics and base them on business outcomes. When IT has evidence of how it contributed to the balance sheet, the angel of budget cuts moves on to the next group.
·        Establish a program to consistently quantify, measure and communicate the value for everything IT does. While metrics for specific projects are vital, they don’t show the full impact of IT. A data intelligence program can look across IT and aggregate the metrics into a meaningful story with dashboards and corresponding strategic narratives.
·        Finally, as my former CEO used to say, don’t confuse hard work with results. I have seen (and admire) the heroic efforts of IT teams who work 24 hours a day and weekends to ensure the business or the customer isn’t impacted when strategic projects are being implemented. However, the results are what matter and communicating those results with corresponding data matters even more.  

IT is a magical place. Great things happen in the engine room of the company. Having been in the technology industry for over 20 years on both the service and business sides, I have seen the most significant success in companies when IT measures their efforts, ties them back to business outcomes, and consistently communicates their results using the language of data. Not only does IT get the respect it deserves, the business is able to unleash the magical power of IT.  

Kristan Gainey is Chief of Staff for the CIO of Informatica and leads the company's IT Program Management Office (PMO) team. She is passionate about learning, solving tricky problems and creating stories that educate, inspire and persuade.


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